Phage Therapy for Limb-threatening Prosthetic Knee Klebsiella pneumoniae Infection: Case Report and in Vitro Characterization of Anti-biofilm Activity

Edison J. Cano, Katherine M. Caflisch, Paul L. Bollyky, Jonas D. Van Belleghem, Robin Patel, Joseph Fackler, Michael J. Brownstein, Bri'Anna Horne, Biswajit Biswas, Matthew Henry, Francisco Malagon, David G. Lewallen, Gina A. Suh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Prosthetic joint infection (PJI) is a potentially limb-threatening complication of total knee arthroplasty. Phage therapy is a promising strategy to manage such infections including those involving antibiotic-resistant microbes, and to target microbial biofilms. Experience with phage therapy for infections associated with retained hardware is limited. A 62-year-old diabetic man with a history of right total knee arthroplasty 11 years prior who had suffered multiple episodes of prosthetic knee infection despite numerous surgeries and prolonged courses of antibiotics, with progressive clinical worsening and development of severe allergies to antibiotics, had been offered limb amputation for persistent right prosthetic knee infection due to Klebsiella pneumoniae complex. Intravenous phage therapy was initiated as a limb-salvaging intervention. Methods: The patient received 40 intravenous doses of a single phage (KpJH46φ2) targeting his bacterial isolate, alongside continued minocycline (which he had been receiving when he developed increasing pain, swelling, and erythema prior to initiation of phage therapy). Serial cytokine and biomarker measurements were performed before, during, and after treatment. The in vitro anti-biofilm activity of KpJH46φ2, minocycline and the combination thereof was evaluated against a preformed biofilm of the patient's isolate and determined by safranin staining. Results: Phage therapy resulted in resolution of local symptoms and signs of infection and recovery of function. The patient did not experience treatment-related adverse effects and remained asymptomatic 34 weeks after completing treatment while still receiving minocycline. A trend in biofilm biomass reduction was noted 22 hours after exposure to KpJH46φ2 (P = .063). The addition of phage was associated with a satisfactory outcome in this case of intractable biofilm-associated prosthetic knee infection. Pending further studies to assess its efficacy and safety, phage therapy holds promise for treatment of device-associated infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E144-E151
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • arthroplasty
  • bacteriophage therapy
  • biofilm
  • phage therapy
  • prosthetic joint infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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